Science fiction is a lot like cosmetic surgery; you start out with a beautiful goal, but too many missteps, and the end result is often disturbingly hilarious. As a genre, it often relies on impossible situations and dialogue so absurd that a reclusive soap-opera addict would cringe with embarrassment. When it’s done right, you end up with a Blade Runner or a Close Encounters of the Third Kind; when it’s done wrong, you’ve got Johnny Mnemonic.
So, although fanboys react to the word “remake” much the way men react to the word “catheter,” we need to take a good look at some films that, while promising in concept, were everything from generally disappointing to woefully hysterical in execution. Let’s allow the studios to give these stories another shot, shall we?
5. Panic In Year Zero!
Well, the title doesn’t leave much to the imagination.
As much a child of Cold War hysteria as Dr. Strangelove, this forgotten little film depicts the utter breakdown of society that occurs in the wake of a devastating nuclear attack on the United States. Featuring a social consciousness that was unique for its time, when most sci-fi movies consisted of a “aliens are bad and we are good and we must kill the bad aliens” formula, a remake of this film would certainly work these days, when films like War of the Worlds and 28 Days Later depict the deterioration of morality amidst an apocalyptic backdrop.
We’re all afraid of war, so let’s do what our culture does best: exorcise those demons with a good dose of blockbuster entertainment. It’s no coincidence that all the television networks started airing Outbreak at the height of the swine flu scare.
4. The Philadelphia Experiment
Urban legends have so much potential to translate into spectacular films. We all know these stories, we’ve heard them somewhere, and a talented filmmaker could embellish on them wonderfully.
That didn’t happen with The Philadelphia Experiment, a movie inspired by the largely discredited but still immensely awesome story of a United States Naval ship that was involved in a project involving cloaking, or, making it invisible to the human eye. Of course, in the world of sci-fi, science and the government are always wrong and bad (unless it’s an alien invasion flick), and the ship gets tossed into a rift in the space-time continuum that kills most of the passengers.
Conspiracy stories are awesome for sci-fi; just look at the success of The X-Files. We want a film that is as badass as the utterly ridiculous legend that inspired it.
3. Logan’s Run
Sci-fi is most successful when it is prescient, addressing the concerns of the society which it exists in. The Terminator was a hit because it was released when many people were living in distrust of rapid technological advancement. People loved The Matrix because, for the most part, none of us understand how computers freaking work.
Logan’s Run certainly has all that going for it. The basic premise is this: in the future, any citizen who reaches the age of thirty must be killed, a program which results in a utopian society where overpopulation is controlled and the hazards posed by elderly drivers are a thing of the past. Any viewer with too much time on his hands could draw parallels between the situation on screen and current events. Our resources are being spread too thin over a steadily increasing population. The media’s fixation on youth and beauty has made it so that anyone over the age of thirty may as well be dead anyway, at least in the eyes of society. The X-Men movies are wildly successful, and Wolverine’s real name is Logan.
Although the concept works, the film fails on so many levels. According to the set designer, the 23rd Century is going to look like a cross between an acid trip and an episode of The Price is Right. The costumes make the early episodes of Star Trek look like a fashion show, and the actors…well, maybe they’re doing their best with the material. It’s too ridiculous to tell.
Fortunately, Carl Rinsch, a director who learned the trade from Ridley Scott, has recently been hired to helm a remake. Perhaps there is hope for this story yet.
2. Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury’s acclaimed novel about firemen whose job it is to burn books was written as a critique of a society that is obsessed with pleasure and spends far too much time in front of the TV.
Sound familiar? Of course not. We spend far too much time on the internet. Bradbury was many things, but he was not a prophet.
Either way, it’s a shame that a director as talented as Francois Truffaut (we know he’s talented, the Criterion Collection said so) ended up directing an adaptation that has aged about as well as Cybill Shepherd. Truffaut’s skill can’t save the film from horribly dated special effects and performances that suggest all the actors had been drugged before the cameras started rolling.
Frank Darabont has been trying to get a remake off the ground for years now. Let’s hope he has his chance.
1. Plan 9 From Outer Space
Long regarded as the worst movie ever made (this was a time before Gigli), a remake of this picture would be a box office success if only because movie buffs would be curious to see if cinematic feces could be turned into something slightly better than cinematic feces.
And honestly…the overall story isn’t that bad, at least in terms of its basic ideas. Rather than relying on the standard tropes of the alien invasion picture, which include death rays and space cannons and good old-fashioned American heroes whooping E.T.’s ass, this film tells of aliens who plan to take over our planet by resurrecting our dead and using them as an army (this is Plan 9…no, we don’t know why Plans 1 through 8 were such massive failures).
So, a zombie film mixed with an alien invasion film? Don’t lie to yourself. That could be so awesome in so many glorious ways. Let J.J. Abrams produce this one. Cloverfield was a clear indication that he can take a B-movie premise and make it thrilling as hell.
What do you think? Are these better left in the dust? Or revived and given new hope?
Check back in next week when you give you our Top 5 Sci-Fi Films that should NEVER be remade!